FCC Welcomes Blue to the EAS Family

from Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth Law

Last week the FCC unanimously adopted a new member to the Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) family: the “Blue Alert.” Transmitted through the broadcast EAS and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) systems, the Blue Alert is a voluntary alert code that can be used by state and local authorities to alert the public of credible “threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.” See it as an Amber Alert for law enforcement.

The Report and Order was approved after an emotional testimony by the family members of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu from the New York Police Department, who were gunned down while on duty and whose deaths lead to the 2015 Blue Alert Act. This FCC approval will allow for more states to adopt the new EAS code.

This new alert can be disseminated through television, radio, satellite, and wireless phones using the three character code BLU. On a voluntary basis, all EAS Participants can upgrade their software to include the BLU event code. However, those wishing to upgrade will have to bear the cost for installation, downloading the software updates, and any other clerical work necessary.

For those wishing to welcome Blue Alert into their EAS system, the FCC has provided a 12-month implementation period for broadcast EAS and an 18-month implementation period for WEA via people’s phones. These timelines are designed to ensure that those choosing to deliver EAS Blue Alert can have the sufficient training, resources, and time available to address any technical issues that arise to ensure the successful delivery of Blue Alerts. The Commission also believes that by upgrading the EAS with Blue Alert on a rolling, voluntary basis that it will cut down on significant costs to EAS Participants.

The FCC, along with the National Broadcasters Association, believes that this Order will now allow the public for an “opportunity to protect themselves and their families and to report relevant information to law enforcement, thus facilitating the apprehension of suspects who are alleged to pose an imminent threat to law enforcement officers.”

Commissioner Carr heralded the measure saying, “This action should facilitate the delivery of Blue Alerts in a uniform and consistent manner nationwide and, in the process, increase the reach and effectiveness of these potentially life-saving warnings.” Commissioner Clyburn added that a, “three-character Blue Alert event code is the most effective means to share vital information in critical situations.”

If your arms are wide open to welcome Blue Alert into your EAS system, contact us about how we can help you.

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